Taiwan developing more advanced offensive missiles

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH AP

Fri, Apr 27, 2007 - Page 1

Taiwan is developing missiles capable of covering a range of up to 1,000km to defend the country against a possible attack, the defense minister said yesterday.

Minister of National Defense Lee Jye's (李傑) comments came just two days after Taiwanese military officials revealed that a computer simulation of a war with China envisioned Taiwan using unidentified missiles to take out Chinese military bases across the 160km-wide Taiwan Strait.

Lee yesterday said the "Tactical Shore-based Missile for Fire Suppression" (TSMFS) is being developed with the US government's approval.

"The TSMFS is a defense missile system," he said. "It can be used against Chinese missile attacks. The US government is well-informed of the plan."

The minister made the remarks in response to lawmakers' questions yesterday morning.

Other than admitting that the maximum range for the "TSMFS" will be 1,000km, Lee said that other details of the missile system remain confidential.

"I have no idea what targets in China the missiles may hit," he said. "Democratic Progressive Party Chairman Yu Shyi-kun once said during his term as premier that our missiles could easily destroy China's Three Gorges Dam, and his comment has seriously made our job a lot more difficult. Please stop speculating."

The minister told lawmakers that China has a superior military force. As such, Taiwan would never challenge China and the TSMFS would only be used for defense.

Taiwanese missile development is a sensitive issue for the US, which provides defensive weaponry but has been reluctant to sell arms that could be used to attack China.

Opposition lawmakers have expressed concern that the US could still pull the plug on the missile program by withholding sophisticated satellite guidance technology from the Taiwanese military.

As for last week's simulated war game, Lee said President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was happy with the results.

Regarding recent criticism that the military asked its officers to commit suicide should they be surrounded by enemies during the war game, Lee emphasized that the war game only simulated the worst-case scenario.

"Again, we still have to figure out what we should do when the worst happens. That was not the focus of the war game," Lee said.